The political level in Israel opposes the return of the United States to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, but the current government, unlike its predecessor, prefers to express its positions without fanfare.
On the other hand, the Israeli military level does not see anything wrong with the political solution, as long as it guarantees the cessation of the Iranian nuclear and missile projects while stopping Tehran’s activity in the region.
Israeli observers say that the current government’s need for the US administration, which in turn prefers it over a government headed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, makes them prefer understanding, rather than confrontation.
This reflected itself in the first meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden, at the White House last month.
However, while Bennett avoided any sign of accepting the United States’ return to the agreement with Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz considered that Israel could live with such an agreement, but with conditions.
Referring to President Biden’s efforts, Gantz told Foreign Policy in the middle of this month: “The current American approach, which is to put the Iranian nuclear program back into a box, I will accept that.”
However, he added that he wants the United States to have a “Plan B” that includes economic sanctions, and in return, he referred to Israel’s “Plan C”, which includes moving militarily to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Gantz explained to the magazine what he said was a viable “Plan B”: “full political, economic and diplomatic pressure from the United States, Europe, Russia and China,” as he put it.
But he made it clear that the Israeli army is preparing military means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if it reaches that limit.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did not comment publicly on these statements, but the Israeli right saw Gantz’s statements as a capitulation to Iran.
“Gantz’s statement that Israel can coexist with a new nuclear agreement indicates that the government has given up an independent policy on the Iranian nuclear front,” analyst Amnon Lord wrote in the Israel Today newspaper (which supports opposition leader Netanyahu).
“These are miserable statements, especially in light of talks with Iran about international monitors of its nuclear facilities. In general, the Iranians have agreed to allow cameras to be installed at their nuclear sites, but they will not give monitors memory cards to see what has been recorded.”
He continued, “Gantz and Bennett are essentially telling the Americans and the world at large that Israel is returning to a position of dependence on the United States, even after the fiasco in Afghanistan and after US President Joe Biden has made it clear that he is not willing to take any action against Iran.”
Muhammad Majadleh, an expert on Israeli affairs and an analyst for the Israeli channel “12” (private), believes that Gantz, in his statement, expressed the positions of the Israeli army.
Majadleh told The Eastern Herald: “The security and political level in Israel was and still supports an agreement between Iran and the international six, but that it be a good agreement, and this means that it includes everything related to missile warheads, the development of ballistic missiles and the prevention of uranium enrichment, which they believe guarantees that no access to nuclear weapons will be reached. Iran to a nuclear bomb.
He added, “Therefore, in fact, Gantz’s statements come from this premise, meaning that this is the closest to the military and security level, and not the political level that cannot make such statements publicly, because it will be criticized by Netanyahu and the right, which considers that the international agreement With Iran, a strategic mistake that will harm Israel.”
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Bennett for his handling of the Iranian file.
He wrote in a tweet on Twitter, Thursday: “Bennett’s obsession with distinguishing between himself and me in any way is costing the State of Israel dearly in the struggle against Corona, the struggle against the Iranian nuclear program, and the political struggle against the Palestinians.”
He added, “Instead of silly attacking Netanyahu’s many successful speeches, at the United Nations, Bennett should read these speeches carefully and learn how to attract and mobilize the world’s attention for the benefit of the State of Israel.”
Bennett said at a government meeting on September 12, “The Iranian nuclear program is in its most advanced stage, and these are the heirs left by the previous government to this government, but this is our mandate now. We are committed and we will deal with this program.”
According to Majadeh, Netanyahu avoids harsh criticism of Gantz, because he sees him as a potential future ally.
He said, “Gantz has more ease to make such statements because he knows that Netanyahu needs him in the event that he forms a government in the future, and he will not exaggerate his criticism, just as Gantz is the defense minister, and usually the defense minister’s statements are closer to the military level than to the political level.”
He added, “I do not see that Gantz’s statements represent the political level. Within the government, there are differences on the issue. The wing that supports an agreement with Iran is the wing of foreign ministers Yair Lapid, Gantz’s defense, health Nissan Horovitch, and transportation Merav Michaeli, meaning the Center Movement.”
He continued, “On the other hand, there is the wing that rejects any agreement with Iran, which includes Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Ministers of Justice Gideon Sa’ar, and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.”
However, he noted that “there is an agreement between Bennett and Biden, according to which Israel will say its position on the agreement with Iran in closed rooms and not in the media.”
He added: “This means that the current government should not do what Netanyahu did, who launched a global campaign and within the United States against the agreement with Iran in 2015, because this destabilizes the relationship between Democrats and Republicans and between Democrats themselves.”
Majadleh added: “The United States promised Israel that it would listen well to its positions on the nuclear agreement, but in closed rooms, and Biden made it clear to Bennett that he is seeking an agreement with Iran, and the issue is not whether there will be an agreement or not, but rather how this agreement will be concluded, and what are its conditions, And to what extent it will constrain Iran, not only with regard to the nuclear issue, but also with regard to ballistic missiles and Iran’s activities in the Middle East.”
In this regard, Amos Harel, a military analyst in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, says: “The American policy is frustrating, but the Israeli side is gradually acquiescing in it.”
In an article published in the newspaper, Harel added: “The Israeli reservations were raised during President Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, last month, in Washington, and in a series of professional meetings.”
He continued, “In part of the talks, the Israelis suggested to the Americans to toughen their language and pose a real military threat to Iran if it continues to advance its nuclear project, but the American administration, despite its warm friendships with Israel and the good relations between its officials, is not enthusiastic about that.”
He revealed that the Israeli military level and the American opposition prevented a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities between 2009 and 2012.
He added, “Despite the statements of senior Israeli officials, an independent military option against Iran is not really on the table, now.”